Identity theft happens when someone gets their hands on your personal information, for example, your ID number, driver’s licence, email address or banking details, and then uses that to make purchases, open accounts or take loans in your name, leaving you with the bill.
How can I protect myself?
Be aware that it’s your responsibility to protect your personal details as far as possible. If you’re negligent with them, criminals may take advantage and organisations will be less sympathetic if you do become a victim of fraud. These tips may help:
- Keep your passwords and personal details in a safe place, and don’t email or sms them to anyone.
- Check your bank statements carefully for purchases you don’t remember making.
- When using an ATM, if you notice any suspicious activity, immediately cancel the transaction and walk away.
- Never respond to emails, texts or phone calls asking you for personal information, even if they appear to come from a business you transact with. If you think they may be legitimate, rather look up the company’s contact details yourself and contact them directly. Of course if you phone them, it’s standard practice for the agent to ask for some personal details to verify your identity.
- Don’t throw away any documents containing personal information. Rather file and store them safely for a few years, then shred them.
- Check your credit report for free once a year with a company like Compuscan, Experian and Transunion
What should I do if I think someone has my personal details?
- Immediately contact the bank or other organisation where you first noticed the fraudulent activity and find out what their process is for dealing with it.
- Report the suspected fraud on the SA Fraud Prevention Service helpline at 0860 101 248 and ask them what to do next.
- Report a lost or stolen ID book on tel : 011 867 2234 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a funny take on the subject, watch Identity Thief with Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. You’ll laugh out loud and then immediately do what you can to make sure it never happens to you!